Sunday

11th Apr 2021

EU launches probe into Barroso ethics

  • Jean-Claude Juncker (left) applauds Jose Manuel Barroso (right) in 2014. The current EU commission president said there will be no more VIP treatment of Barroso. (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission will scrap red-carpet rights for its former president Jose Manuel Barroso, amid pressure to bring the Portuguese politician-turned-lobbyist to book.

Barroso’s appointment as non-executive chairman and special adviser on Brexit to US investment bank Goldman Sachs, in July, caused outrage.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

France’s president Francois Hollande, but also the commission’s own rank-and-file officers condemned as morally unacceptable that the former EU boss would work for a business that played a controversial role in the eurozone crisis.

In 2001, Goldman Sachs helped Greece to cover up the extent of its debt level, meaning that Athens could take on additional loans up to unsustainable levels.

Barroso’s successor at the commission’s helm, Jean-Claude Juncker, made known that Barroso’s new job will mean he no longer profits from VIP rights during his visits to Brussels.

”As of taking up his employment, Mr Barroso will be received in the commission not as a former president but as an interest representative”, Juncker wrote to the EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly in a letter dated Friday (9 September).

He added that the Barroso case will be subject to consideration by a special ethics committee, which provides advice on the compatibility with the EU treaties of former commissioners’ post-office activities.

”I am pleased to inform you that, although in my contacts with Mr Barroso, he confirmed his standing commitment to behave with integrity and discretion also within his new position at Goldman Sachs, I have asked that, in this specific case, because it involves a former president of the commission, the secretary-general sends him a letter asking him to provide clarifications on his new responsibilities and the terms of reference of his contacts, on which I will seek the advice of the ad hoc ethical committee,” Juncker wrote.

The head of the EU executive has previously suggested that Goldman Sachs was not a good choice of employer.

But the commission has also defended Barroso, saying he followed EU rules, which state that ex-commissioners must ask the commission for approval before taking up a job up to 18 months after leaving EU office. Barroso took up the job 20 months later.

O’Reilly last week announced she had launched a probe into the case.

The EU watchdog said that article 245 of the EU Treaties requires commissioners to behave with integrity both during and after their term of office, and that some cases don’t cease to be problematic just because the 18 months deadline passes.

She asked Juncker for clarifications, by ways of establishing that the commission had taken all the necessary steps to uphold article 245.

She also asked whether the special ethics committee had been involved, and how the EU executive aimed to ensure that Barroso didn't exercise undue influence on the commission's special Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier - a former member of the Barroso commission.

O’Reilly also argued that there may be reason to revise the current code of conduct for commissioners.

A petition of EU officials has asked the commission to scrap Barroso's pension rights.

Opinion

Barrosogate: What next?

Barrosogate is putting to the test an already weak oversight system of former EU commissioners and highlighting the limits of the lobbying regulatory regime.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us